Content is one of the most effective business tools you have. It’s a way to attract, engage, and keep prospects and customers, and get them to take specific actions. And, when used correctly, it can help you achieve an array of business goals. Whether that’s building brand awareness, generating leads, or boosting revenue, taking the time to produce great content makes sense.

But for content marketing to work over the long haul, you need to figure out how to optimize your content creation efforts. It’s not just about publishing great content that resonates with your audience and differentiates you from your competitors. You also need to produce it as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. In other words, it’s about finding your content marketing sweet spot.

As you can imagine, creating a powerful content engine is as much art as science. And while the creative parts of coming up with great content are something you learn from experience, to get the science part right, you need the data-driven insights that come from content analytics. Specifically, you need to measure what you’re doing, the results you’re achieving, and how those results square with the investment you’re making.

Fundamentally, there are four main types of analytics every content team needs to consider to get the best results. They are:

(1) Content production metrics

With content production metrics, you’re simply keeping tabs on if you’re actually delivering all the content you’ve said you’ll create as part of your goals. If you’ve committed to publishing two blog posts a week, a biweekly podcast, a monthly case study, and two eBooks every quarter, are you actually producing all of that? Keeping track of this stuff is an important reality check. If your content team isn’t meeting its commitments, it could mean you’re trying to do too much with too few resources. Or maybe it’s a sign that you’re not allocating your resources efficiently.

(2) Content performance metrics

Any time you publish a piece of content, the usual knee-jerk reaction is to look for immediate validation about how well it performed. How many people saw it? Liked it? Shared it? And while this kind of information can be motivating, the reality is that not all of the metrics in this category are equally useful. In fact, when it comes to helping you deliver better business outcomes, only a handful actually matter.

Think of content performance metrics as falling into two buckets. There are the so-called vanity metrics (number of views, listens, sessions, users, and so on). They’re a clear indication that you’re reaching more people, but that may not actually help drive meaningful business results. And then there are the metrics that demonstrate how you’re actually helping your company meet its goals. These include things like number of goal completions, the length of your sales cycle, and your customer service costs.

The bottom line is that content performance metrics are important, but you have to know which ones have real implications for your business and which ones don’t. And even though you want to improve all of these metrics, remember that the only one that ultimately matters to your executive team is how you helped drive sales by delivering qualified leads.

(3) ROI metrics

All of the metrics we’ve looked at so far are useful, but ROI metrics take things a step further. They demonstrate the value you’re creating for your business by investing time and money in content. Unfortunately, calculating the ROI of your content is a lot easier said than done. In fact, according to research from HubSpot, 40 percent of marketers say that proving the ROI of their marketing activities is their top marketing challenge. But it’s an activity that’s worth doing. Marketers who calculate ROI report they’re 1.6 times more likely to receive higher budgets.

When it comes to ROI metrics, two things matter: How much value your content is generating overall and how much it’s generating on a piece-by-piece or type-by-type basis. That way, you can measure your ROI in general, and also for specific assets and types of assets. ROI metrics are important because they can retroactively help you rationalize your existence. It’s one thing to demonstrate value by using the right performance metrics, but you also need to balance that against the cost of what you’re doing. ROI metrics will help you bridge that gap.

To calculate ROI, you can use this process from the Content Marketing Institute.

(4) Content quality and governance metrics

The major flaw that all the metrics we’ve discussed here share is that they’re only available once you’ve published your content. And while you can still use them to adjust your content and your content marketing program, you’re always left doing so after the fact. To get the best results, you also need metrics that help you optimize your content and your content creation processes before you ever publish anything. Specifically, you need:

  • Content quality metrics. These include things like the clarity and accuracy of your content, its tone of voice, and how consistent it is with your company’s unique brand standards and terminology. By evaluating these things before you publish, and making the necessary changes, you can reliably enhance the chances of your content getting the best results.
  • Governance metrics. There are a number of metrics that are important to capture and use to help make your content creation teams more efficient. For example, your content managers care about quality trends, readability trends, editing cost savings, frequency of terminology usage, and individual and overall authoring scores and improvement. Meanwhile, your translation manager cares about content length, content clarity, and translation savings. And, at the point of publishing, management cares about content usage, conversion, and user satisfaction.

Better Content Marketing One Metric at a Time

Make no mistake. To be successful at content marketing, you need to measure what you’re doing and the impact it’s having on your business. But that doesn’t mean you have to get bogged down in the data or become a victim of analysis paralysis. It’s up to you to decide which metrics you’ll track, at what frequency, and how.

To help, we’ve just published “The Definitive Guide to Content Analytics: Understanding the Data That Matters Most for Successful Content Marketing” a comprehensive guide that goes into a lot more detail about each of these metrics. Download it now and you’ll be on the path to achieving greater success with all your content initiatives.